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Principals want 'CAO-style' admissions for primary and secondary schools

Both primary and secondary schools would have an online ‘preference’ system under the plans from primary principals.

The network of Irish primary school principals wants students to rank their preferred choce of secondary school, in a CAO-style process.
The network of Irish primary school principals wants students to rank their preferred choce of secondary school, in a CAO-style process.
Image: Secondary school pupils via Shutterstock

THE BODY representing Irish primary school principals has called for a “CAO-style” model to govern enrolment into both primary and secondary schools.

The Irish Primary Principals’ Network says proposals to reform entry into Irish schools should take their lead from the college admissions process – and ask pupils to list their preferred secondary schools in order of preference.

The body wants a web-based application system where all children entering primary school, or sixth class pupils moving into second-level education, list their choices for the schools they want to attend.

“Then, parents could get their first, second or third choice, depending on supply and demand factors, in a method similar to the CAO application process for college,” said IPPN director Sean Cottrell.

The calls follow plans from education minister Ruairi Quinn to overhaul the school admissions process, prohibiting policies where schools can choose to prioritise the children or siblings of past pupils, or operate a ‘first come, first served’ model.

Earlier this month Quinn told a conference of secondary school teachers he would be introducing legislation to ensure a more equal admissions system for schools.

The principals’ proposals would only kick in if a school gets more applications than it has space to cater for – and says the model would reduce stress for parents and boards of management by making the admissions process more transparent.

Cottrell said the IPPN wanted a single enrolment application form for all public schools, with nearby schools clustering to form catchment areas and cooperating on their own enrolment criteria.

The association is backing Quinn’s plans which would force schools to stop prioritising students who are the children of former pupils, or the children of current teachers at those schools.

However, the association does want allowances for families who have always lived in one school’s catchment area, but who may now find themselves muscled out if new homes have been built closer to that school, so that those families are not pushed out of their traditional school.

Read: Ruairí Quinn: School enrolment to be ‘more structured, fair and transparent’

Poll: Should schools introduce ‘CAO-style’ admission?

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Gavan Reilly

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